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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 2 comments

So, I went to make myself a nice cuppa tea this morning and was disgusted to find a manky bit of crud in the bottom of the mug.  Ick.  On inspection, I realised the culprit was my kettle.  It may be pretty and shiny blue on the outside, but inside was a wholly different story!  My kettle was totally furred up on the inside with Limescale.  So what to do?  Chuck it out?  Strain the water through a muslin as pouring it into the cup?  Frustratingly, the kettle DOES have a filter on the spout but it's clearly not fine enough to stop the crud getting through!

Not wanting to give up on yet another kettle (this is our second in 18 months) I decided it was worth trying to de-fur it!  Considering, my options I was reminded of a kitchen disaster we had a few years back when making popcorn in a shiny new saucepan.  The popcorn was left too long and became WELDED (I kid you not) to the bottom of the pan.  After several days of unsuccessful cleaning attempts, someone suggested the very simple idea of soaking it overnight in vinegar.  Humouring them, we tried it.  And amazingly, it worked like a dream!

The nice thing about using vinegar, is that you know it's safe to consume so if any residue is left afterward, you are not going to poison yourself.  The same cannot be said of many other regular household cleaning products!

What's the solution (no pun intended!)?

  1. Mix white distilled vinegar with plain tap water (a ratio of approximately 1:1 is fine, but I tend to add a little more vinegar for an extra punch)!
  2. Fill up your kettle with the vinegar solution.
  3. Leave it for a few hours (overnight is best).  Don't boil unless you want to pass out choking on vinegar fumes!
  4. Pour the solution away!  
  5. If you have some stubborn bits of limescale remaining, make a paste with bicarbonate of soda (baking powder) and water and scrub gently with a scourer or old toothbrush.
  6. Rinse in clean water.
  7. Fill with water and boil as normal, discarding the water at the end.
  8. Your kettle is now ready to use so make yourself a nice brew!

The result... so shiny and clean you can see my reflection in it!

Not only is the kettle restored to it's former sparkling, shiny glory inside as well as out it has had further benefits too!  It now boils faster, quieter AND the auto-shut off that had started to be unreliable, is now working again! *satisfied smile*

Now for the Science bit...

Why does your kettle get limescale inside in the first place?

Because of hard water!  Water hardness occurs naturally and is linked to the rocks in the area the water comes from.  If your drinking water comes from an area with chalk or limestone, then certain minerals will be present in the water.  Calcium carbonate minerals.  It's these bad-boys that form the scale in your kettle!

The reason this occurs particularly in your electric tea kettle is because Calcium carbonate doesn't stay dissolved very easily, especially when heated,   When the water in your kettle is boiled, the Calcium carbonate dissolved in the water starts to precipitate into a solid.  It's these carbonate solids that form the scale or ' fur ' inside kettles. 

This build up of layers of scale will cause poor heat transfer and the heating element can overheat and burn out.

Why was my kettle so bad?

Because the water here in Texas is very hard (it has a whole load of Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in it!).

  • Soft water = 0-60 milligrams (mg) in one litre (L)
  • Moderately hard water = 61-120 mg/L
  • Hard water = 121-180 mg/L
  • Very hard water = >181 mg/L

Here in Houston, Texas,  Calcium carbonate levels are in excess of 240 mg/L, so we're fighting a losing battle against limescale!  Bah!

How does it work?

For those of you who are a bit geeky (like me) here's how it works:

  • CaCO3 + 2CH3COOH ----> (CH3COO)2Ca + H2O + CO2

OR in other words... 

  • Calcium Carbonate (the manky limescale in your kettle) PLUS Vinegar (acetic acid dissolved in water) MAKES Calcium Acetate (a water soluble salt) PLUS water (a liquid) PLUS Carbon dioxide (a gas).

Or in layman's terms... 

  • If you add vinegar to limescale, the vinegar reacts with it, converting it into a salt that dissolves in water. It also produces carbon dioxide and water as by products. Once the process is complete, you can then just pour the salty water away! Ta da!

2 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for that Mama Max, I am off t try it now.

  2. Avery says:

    Your kettle looks adorable. Liked its coluor. :)

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Mama Max

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